The Bison have been able to strike from all angles, scoring multiple touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams. All three phases of the McCook attack were in high gear Friday, Oct. 12, as the Bison blanked Holdrege, 40-0, in front of a partisan home crowd at Weiland Field.
If it's not the Bison rushing attack gouging defenses for steady gains, it's a potent passing attack on the arm of Austin Cherry and his primary weapon, wide receiver Cody Wudtke. The Bison defense also gets in the act, as McCook held Holdrege to just 128 total yards of offense and just 27 net rushing yards.
BISON tight end/defensive end Matt Collicott said his fellow seniors wanted to turn in a good performance on Senior Night, especially on defense.
"Coach Gross, during the game and before the game, he told us we really needed to get after it on defense. Leave everything out on the field, leave no regrets," Collicott said. "The seniors, this is potentially your last game (at home), make it your best game, make it count."
Three times in the first half, Cherry went over the top of the Dusters defense on fade routes to Wudtke, and three times Wudtke hauled in picture-perfect touchdown passes covering 19, 34 and 19 yards. The three scoring receptions were Wudtke's lone catches of the night.
AFTER a somewhat slow start, the Bison got on a roll and led 21-0 at the end of the first quarter.
On the next play, Cherry broke free on an option keeper for 49 yards. Schlager capped the drive five plays later with a 3-yard touchdown run, and Dakota Baumgartner's extra point kick put the Bison ahead 7-0 midway through the first period.
Cherry intercepted a tipped pass on Holdrege's next possession. Two plays later, Schlager ran 30 yards for another touchdown to boost the Bison lead to 14-0.
Mitch Collicott got in the act with another interception for the Bison defense later in the opening quarter. Cherry then hit Wudtke for the first of their three scoring passes to put McCook up 21-0 in the closing seconds of the first period.
Schlager blocked a Holdrege punt early in the second quarter and returned it for a score and a 27-0 Bison lead. Holdrege gave the ball back to the Bison two plays later when Gavin Harsh recovered a fumble at the Holdrege 34. Cherry and Wudtke struck again on the next play for a 33-0 McCook advantage with 8:57 remaining in the first half.
Schlager recovered a Holdrege fumble at the Dusters 19 yard line, and Cherry again found Wudtke all along for a 19-yard TD pass with 4:39 left before intermission.
Wudtke ended a Holdrege threat late in the half when he intercepted a pass deep in Bison territory.
The second half elapsed relatively quickly, with the 35-point running clock employed. Coach Gross substituted freely in the second half.
THE BISON head coach got a good look at the team unity blanketing his squad late in the second half.
Holdrege mounted a drive after recovering a McCook fumble early in the fourth quarter. The Dusters used 13 plays to march to the Bison 7-yard line against McCook defensive reserves. With the starters cheering on their younger teammates, the Bison stopped Holdrege receiver Brock Rademaker short on a fourth-down pass, and McCook took over at the Bison 4-yard line in the final minutes.
McCook ran out the clock, with Trever Matson running 9 yards on a third down play to end the game.
"That's important. It's important for the young guys to go out there make that stop. It's important for the older guys to make sure that they support them to help them get that," Gross said of his team's fourth-quarter efforts "I was very impressed with everybody that stepped on the field. The thing I challenged them with at halftime was, 'Get better every single down.' Get better and that was a big thing for us, to go out and continuing to get better, and we did."
McCook rushed for 235 yards, with Cherry leading the way with 106 yards on 9 attempts. Schlager added 78 yards on 10 carries, and Kyle Stewart gaining 21 yards on 6 rushes. Cherry also completed 3 of 7 passes for 72 yards -- with all three receptions going to Wudtke for touchdowns.
HOLDREGE has struggled this season, earning just two wins. Gross was happy that his team came out and gave a maximum effort against a team they could have easily took for granted.
"You still have to play," Gross said. "You don't want to play to the potential of your opponent -- I don't mean that in a negative way toward Holdrege, but we didn't want to go out there and win 21-14. We wanted to go out there and be dominant, and we were. Last week against Hastings, we wanted to go out and dominate, and we did. Next week we want to go out and play well against Lexington.
"It's not just about winning by one point -- that comes in a couple weeks when you get in the playoffs, where you find a way to win. Right now it's about getting better every week. We're a work in progress -- every football team is until the last game. That's what we're after right now."
McCOOK improved to 6-2 overall and 2-0 in Class B-7 District play. The Bison will hope to sweep their district foes with a win Friday, Oct. 19, at Lexington (1-7, 0-2). Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Ray Ehlers Stadium at Lexington High School.
Holdrege falls to 2-6 overall and 1-1 in the district, with the regular-season finale Oct. 19 against Hastings.